Youth International Summit: The Story
This conference began as a simple idea: just like many of our attendees, I was a student stuck at home, bored with quarantine, emptied of motivation to do my online assignments, missing my friends. I attended a few regional Model UN meetings online, and it made me realize that not only am I learning through virtual platforms, students all over the world are. When the world’s education shifts to online, then suddenly former barriers for a conference like this begin to disappear. The expenses, the travel, the logistics once necessary for an international event? Gone. So this got me thinking: why not plan a virtual Model UN conference open to delegates from anywhere in the world? After weeks of outreach, research, and organization, the first YISMUN conference was held in June of 2020, with around 150 delegates from 20+ countries.
While there was no shortage of small online Model United Nations conferences, YISMUN has been unique from the beginning. I began by replacing all registration fees with an optional donation to a non-profit-- in addition to increasing accessibility for all students, this generated support for organizations from COVID-19 DirectRelief to UNICEF’s Aid for Yemen programme. I set my sights on making the conference as diverse and international as possible, first by scheduling the conference with global time zones in mind, then reaching out to as many countries and Model UN societies as possible. Thanks to the Model UN team from the University of Lagos, our attendance tripled from the first conference to the second, allowing YISMUN to reach a wider audience than ever before.
In August 2020, YISMUN connected with the United Nations and received a letter of recognition and encouragement. Emboldened by this success, I (along with our incredible team of student directors) continued leading conferences, creating new student leadership positions to empower others. YISMUN has recently added weekly workshops to engage students in meaningful discussions on key global issues with an international cohort. Currently, we have hosted 7 international conferences, with over 550 registrations for each conference from over 100 countries. These registrations have generated 90+ donations to various global nonprofits, such as the Save the Children fund to provide access to healthcare and education threatened by the global pandemic.
Thanks to weeks of commitment and organization for each conference, perspectives were changed, new friendships were made, and YISMUN was suddenly more impactful than I ever dreamed. It’s truly rewarding to see the hard work of the secretariat and the executive board turn an idea into a reality.
The Youth International Summit is founded on the belief that Model UN is critical in 21st century education, because it focuses on the power of diplomacy, listening to one another, and addressing problems with resolution in mind. If we recognize the power in actively listening to others and validating their life experiences, it can go a long way. Climate change could be slowed if lawmakers, diplomats, and corporate executives acknowledge climate science and activism over the profits of business status quo. The heated tensions over racism may be cooled if those who find themselves privileged acknowledge the history and the humanity of those who are oppressed. Open-minded communication can unite diverse groups of people to brighten our future, just as we have done here at YISMUN. Model UN is so much more than a school club; it encourages political discourse open to all points of view. Imagine what the world would be if we carry this mindset through our universities and careers and future successes-- let us continue to debate, to dissent, to openly listen, until human rights and global cooperation is no longer a hope, but a reality.
Founder and Executive Director of Youth International Summit
Hailing from Dallas, Texas, USA, Taryn is a current freshman in the Harvard class of 2025 and is the founder of YISMUN. Starting this conference was her response to the global COVID-19 shutdown, and she is honored see her idea become a reality thanks to international student cooperation! Since she discovered Model UN 3 years ago, Taryn has become President of her school’s Model UN team, not only winning awards herself but also leading other delegates to their first conference awards. An International Baccalaureate student, she has studied Hindi language for 6 years, and spent six weeks in Pune, India in Summer 2019 on the NSLI-Y scholarship studying the language as well. An Economics and South Asian Studies major, she intends to work in International Business and Sustainability, hoping to apply sustainable development and entrepreneurship towards the global struggle against poverty. She is also interested in international relations, and attended the Yale International Relations Leadership Institute in August 2020 to hone her skills in leadership and negotiation. She is truly passionate about using her platform to develop a global consciousness for all students, moving away from apathy and towards understanding.